MUET Speaking Test 2021 – done!

Recently, I completed the MUET speaking test with much relief at my university. As I had mentioned earlier, I am taking MUET because I need a BAND 4 to enter my medical degree. I am taking MUET with the new format implemented since this year in 2021. Having been allocated the first possible test date and the first possible time slot, which was on the 17th of February, 7.30am early in the morning. I knew with some amusement that I was among the newbies for this new format.

On the day of the test, I entered the block after scanning the respective QR codes and taking my temperature, due to the current COVID situation. We entered the quarantine room of which we weren’t allowed to leave after 8am. The quarantine room consisted of chairs and tables arranged in columns and was divided into two halves, each for students designated to two test rooms (known as test centres). The quarantine room was right at the end of a corridor, while the two test rooms were both right outside the quarantine room, facing each other on opposite sides.

A lady examiner announced to the entire room of the MUET speaking 2021 new format, and any new expectations of us that we may not be aware of. There were a few rules that were surprising to me, but I took it in my stride. Here are some things she said.

Notable things the examiner said regarding the 2021 new format:

  1. Task A (individual presentation) and Task B (group discussion) are no longer related to each other. Therefore, during Task A, it is not necessary to jot down notes to use in Task B when other candidates are giving their individual presentation. Just listen to them will do.
  2. Due to the COVID pandemic, the current rules for stationary are that you bring in your own pen and pencils, but paper will be provided to you.
  3. If you are accustomed to underlining keywords on the question paper, this time you cannot, as the questions are within a clear holder for COVID SOP.
  4. For Task B (group discussion), you may add your own ideas that are not included in the mind map provided.
  5. You may not ask for clarification on the meaning of words in the question paper (while previously it was possible).

As for other details of the 2021 new format (links to Youtube videos and other sources), and things you must bring along, I will include BELOW at the end of my blogpost.

We also had to surrender our phones into a plastic bag labelled with A, B, C or D (indicating the candidate that you are) and seal it with masking tape. We were told to take everything with us when it was our turn, since we would not be allowed to reenter the test centre.

I observed what people were wearing and realized that I had chosen much more formal wear as compared to them. The attire we were told to wear was semi formal / smart casual. To be safe, I had worn a long sleeve red office shirt, with black slacks and black, slightly heeled flats; whereas for others, although they had avoided jeans and T-shirts altogether in compliance with the semi formal rule, had worn sneakers / jogging shoes and less formal tops. Anyway, it can’t hurt to be safe! The quarantine room was cold on my wild predictions, and my long sleeve shirt kept me warm.

This was my third time on campus, and I was becoming more at ease in this strange environment. I felt a little nervous, but really I was more nervous in the days leading up to the exam than today. It was as if now that the test was so close to happening, it’s already almost over! Anyway, I had my mind on the topic that we would be given, and on mentally preparing myself for the flow of the exam, how I would begin my presentation etc.

Finally, it was my group’s turn! My nervousness had already subsided almost completely, since I had had some time to even speak with my allocated three other group members and get to know them a little. They are all older than I am but very friendly. I do regret not having exchanged contacts with them. I packed my bags and belongings and moved to the test centre. We had to put all our belongings at a corner of the room. Then we sat down at the tables meant for each candidate, which were all a few feet apart to maintain social distancing. The two examiners sat at each end of the small room.

I think everything mostly went quite smoothly as I focused on generating ideas for the topic given, which was on technology. My specific situation was How Technology Helps In Housework, and I thought of the recent Chinese New Year Eve and dished out a few remotely technologically canggih equipment that I had used in cleaning the house. Haha! I may however have neglected to relate back to the question though, which is crucial. I only realized that after the exam. The group discussion on the use of technology in education also went great, though I wished we had covered more of the other points (which were given in the mindmap in the question). But time was running up already, and one of us concluded the discussion.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable exam for me. This is because I always love the opportunity to learn, and as I spoke on this topic, I saw many opportunities for me to offer some general knowledge that I had, and as I shared these things with my groupmates and expressed them out in formal English, I found myself learning things that I didn’t really realize before. However, for Task B (Group discussion), I believe I did not manage to consider properly the other points given, and I focused only on debating one side of the equation together with my teammates. It is in a small way a lost learning opportunity, and also a less complete discussion that should supposedly debate every aspect of the topic. All in all, it was still very enriching and fun. It is times like these where I truly do appreciate exams such as MUET, because I find it to be such an enriching experience, though I know it is also a nerve-wrecking one for many others. I wish we had more opportunity to carry out more discussions like these, perhaps without the weight of grades and without heavy criticism from others. Then we would learn so much!

I left the exam room happily. At ground floor there were lots of chairs and tables in a corner, and my friend beckoned for me to come discuss the topic. Together with me that day was this friend who had travelled quite a distance (interstate) to sit for this exam, whom I was meeting for the first time, due to our studies being completely online ever since June last year, since I entered my foundation year at this university. It was fun to meet them and say hi, and discuss the exam topic with much enthusiasm and amusement after it was all over.

I texted my relative, and they said they would pick me up in about 45 minutes time. Meanwhile, I explored the university a bit, trying to familiarize myself with the place I would soon call my second home.

Then it was time to go.

I’m glad my speaking test is over now! I can finally heave a sigh of relief. I have two exams coming soon and I do need to focus on studying. Later on, I would have to prepare for the rest of the exam components – MUET reading, writing and listening test, which is on a later date. For now though, the speaking test is out of the way and I can focus back on my studies for a while.

Do let me know in the comments below if this blogpost benefited you, it would make me really happy to know that I could be of help! 😛

If you’re taking your MUET speaking test soon as you are reading this, I wish you all the best!

MUET Must Brings:

  1. IC (identification card)
  2. MUET registration slip (printed from MPM’s site)
  3. Any police letters or supporting documents from your university / institution that will allow you to pass roadblocks (specific to the current COVID-19 situation)

MUET 2021 new format resources attached below!

MUET 2021 exam new format briefing:

MUET speaking example video by MPM (Majlis Peperiksaan Malaysia) according to MUET 2021 new format:

College study tips: Is it easier to remember, or to forget?

Light Bulb
Credits: Pixabay

Remembering, the bane of all doctors and a highly significant contributor to their success in medical school and beyond.

How often do you try to recall something, only to realize the memory is already long faded and too late to trace back? Even worse, sometimes it feels as if it’s at the tip of your mind and you just. Can’t. Remember.

How often do you make silly mistakes, or do your brain cells feel completely drained, as you struggle to remember?

It certainly must be more difficult to remember.

But is it really?

Say I give you a polynomial equation: 9x^5/9+6x^4/2+x^3/5+7x^2/4+9x+8 = 0, and I ask you to memorize and repeat it back to me in five seconds. Then I ask you to try and forget a formula you’ve known from before – say the root-finding quadratic formula, in five seconds.

Does that first polynomial equation look easy to digest at all? Yet try as you might, you will find it ironically easier to memorize at least partially that polynomial jargon than trying to forget the quadratic formula that you have learnt before.

I am sure the concept of the above paragraph is nothing new to you. However, I am trying to put into concise terms to explain why we cannot give a blanket (general) answer to the question: “is it easier to remember or to forget”. We don’t remember things better just because it’s shorter and less complicated. It also depends on period of exposure – in other words, how long you’ve known it.

We are only human and are not able to over-compromise sleep or take in more knowledge than we possibly can a day. To excel in life, we must make connections with the things we learn. In this case, the transferable skill here is applying what you’ve learnt about memory from this blogpost to your study strategy!

It is learning to expose yourself, regularly but at the appropriate time, to the information you need to absorb. This is done through the well-known method called “spatial recollection“.

Spatial recollection is a scientifically proven method of recalling information through a series of carefully timed re-viewing of the information you need to absorb. It is said that when you’re trying to memorize something, you need to read and reread it the most times in the beginning, then once a week, then once a month perhaps. The neurons in our brains somehow process information in this manner.

Therefore in the beginning, it is crucial to pick your material up and go through it more than once at least. After that, your brain has a stronger hold on the information and it becomes less likely that you will forget it.

I have tried this method and found that it works greatly for me. Try this out in your study strategy, and I’m sure it will do wonders for you!

Learning Raya words the fun way (Selamat Eid Mubarak Everyone!)

See the source image
Credits: FreeImages

Today, the 24th of May, is a big day for all Muslims – it’s Hari Raya, the day where the month-long fast is broken!

Selamat Hari Raya to all my Muslim friends, and others who may also be celebrating the Muslim new year. May you be forgiven of your apparent and latent sins (Zahir dan Batin), and be blessed throughout your new year.

Above all, may life be full of happiness for all of you, Muslim or non-Muslim!

After having spent two months working at the Covid 19 frontlines of a hospital, I have met many Malay colleagues who were friendly and very fun to work with. Since I have collected their contacts over time, it has delighted me to see that all of them have been enjoying Hari Raya Aidilfitri (Eid Mubarak) and the puasa (fasting) month to the fullest, even while working at the Emergency Unit of the hospital, and then at home united with their families, not forgetting to take the necessary preventive actions such as wearing face masks.

To the non-Muslim Malaysians just like myself (or anyone interesting in learning!), it is good and can be fun to learn some of the Malay – specifically Raya – phrases your Muslim friends are using that you may not understand. Not only will it help us understand the Muslims better, it can also be quite interesting to learn! Here are just a couple of terms that I’ve learnt from reading my ex-colleagues Whatsapp statuses:

Terms commonly used during Raya season:

P.s. Admit it. You’re bored by this point, and you’re going to close this tab. Do not fear, for I, Rachel Tan HX, am here to make everything fun for you to read! So read on…. or close the page. 😛

Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Eid Mubarak

Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Eid Mubarak are both used to refer to the same day, which is the Muslim New Year. However, have you ever wondered what “Aidilfitri” meant, or are you simply pronouncing it by muscle memory, like you would say “Abracadabra”, the word used by magicians when performing a magic trick? (In fact, Abracadabra has a meaning, too. I will tell you its awesome meaning soon.)

“Aidifitri” means “To return to the pure, innocent original state that Muslims believe all humans are both with.” Hari Raya Aidilfitri, then, literally means “the day of celebrating the return to the original state”. This original state supposedly refers to being washed of all sin and pollution.

What about “Eid Mubarak”? “Eid” is the Arabic term for feast. “Mubarak” means “blessed”. This “blessed feast” is held on the Eid Mubarak, which when put into context becomes “festival of breaking the fast”.

Therefore, we can say Hari Raya for Muslims is the day where they are cleansed of their sins and where they can break their month-long fast.

Maaf Zahir Dan Batin

Are Zahir and Batin names of historical Islamic followers? That’s what I thought at first, but I was so wrong. Don’t think too much, as we say. It is actually very simple to understand.

“Zahir” refers to “the sins that are obvious”. This refers to crimes committed, including stealing and deception.

“Batin” refers to “the sins that are hidden”. This refers to bad intentions and evil thoughts, even if you do not act on it. If you act on it, it becomes Zahir.

“Maaf Zahir and Batin” is the Muslim way of asking for forgiveness for all committed and hidden sins.

Khutbah and Ameen

Khutbah: sermon, a religious talk that may or may not be in the form of a prayer

Ameen: the Muslim variation of “Amen” for Christianity, which means “may it be so”, uttered after a prayer.

Those are a couple of terms used during the Raya season. Learning a new language can be really fun at times! If you’re thinking of taking up a new language, go for it. It will take time, but if you enjoy the process, it will be worth it, no matter how much effort it takes at first.

And NOW….. What does “Abracadabra” really mean? Is it really just gibberish made up of the first four alphabets – a, b, c, d?

In Hebrew, Abracadabra translates to….

“I will create as I speak.”

Prepping your phone for Uni life, Part 1: Clearing The Mess

So you’re finally a university student? Fret not, let me be here to start uni (or med school) with you and walk alongside you on this journey, whether you’re starting uni this year with me in 2020 or many decades later.

Not everyone can afford a laptop to bring to school at first, and then there are tons of assignments and projects that you wish you could get a headstart on in between classes. Perhaps your phone is cluttered with the heavy storage load multiplayer FPS games you played in high school, emails with 99+ notifications due to too many trashy subscriptions, and 10 social media accounts (you can’t have it all, friend!)

In between certain mobile apps your university may or may not require you to install on your phone – a university owned app, a video conferencing app, e-learning platforms etc, and your phone bugging you every day with “storage is full, please deep clean” messages, you may need to concede and help out your phone who is in pain. If you intend to become a true doctor displaying empathy, you’d better not abuse the health of your phone, who may play a significant role in ensuring you can catch up with your assignments when you’re out on campus!

As a matter of fact, my phone has also been complaining about stomachache for a long while now, and yesterday I finally took the initiative to try and transfer at least my photos and videos to new my computer. Read about me getting a new computer during the coronavirus season here!

All the while, my family has been transferring important documents using wires and pen drives. Recently, perhaps owing in part due to my university and my new computer which had One Drive pre-installed on it respectively, I had learnt of this thing called One Drive that can sync your documents throughout your connected devices: whether it be the computer or your phone. One Drive is basically the Microsoft owned version of Google Drive.

Syncing my old photos to my computer
22 May 2020
Credits: Rachel Tan HX

I had always been a bit lazy in terms of clearing my phone by transferring some stuff to the computer, since I never quite understood the whole wire + USB pen drive concept. Yesterday, I tried uploading my phone photos to one drive (I have included the steps to transfer folders using One Drive app to your computer). Since One Drive is a syncing platform, almost as soon as one photo finished uploading onto the One Drive app on my phone, it appeared in the One Drive – Personal section on my PC! It takes only about 1 second per photo! For a video, it can take up to 10 minutes, but you can leave your phone there to do its work while you busy yourself with other productive things.

Before One Drive, I had attempted to transfer my files using Bluetooth, but although I had accepted the Bluetooth connection on both the phone and PC, nothing went through and an error occurred. Why that happened I cannot be sure, but I think One Drive is a great way to transfer documents to your PC and keep other work or school documents synced on both devices. Although there has been no order yet from my university to do so, I foresaw that this would be useful for on-campus studying and went on to prep my phone for this stage.

Now not only has One Drive cleared some of my phone storage to facilitate focused learning, it has also given me a platform (with limited storage) to sync some of my coursework. It will not beat a laptop, however, we can make do with what we have. If you don’t have access to a handphone, that might be a bit inconvenient, but you can still use the university computer lab once in a while. Don’t see these little things as major obstacles. There is always a way round them.

If you’ve been wondering what is the difference between One Drive and Google Drive, they basically do the same thing. I have used both before, and both are very useful. If you want more information on their differences, I have already done some research for you! Go to this website and scroll right down to the “Conclusion” section. I believe those last three paragraphs can give you concise picture of which syncing app to use.

Enjoy your university life while it lasts! 😉

Steps to upload photos from One Drive mobile phone app onto your computer.

Note: One Drive needs network access. It is an online syncing app.

  1. Download the Microsoft Drive (Google Play Store) mobile app onto your phone, and the One Drive app (Windows Store / Microsoft Store) onto your PC.
  2. In the One Drive app on your phone, click on the + icon at the top right of the screenshot I attached above to upload any documents from your phone.
  3. Upload your documents/ folders and click open at the top right of the screen.
  4. Your files will begin uploading as shown in the screenshot!
  5. Open up the One Drive computer app on your PC.
  6. Select the folder you want to transfer out of One Drive into the computer itself. This is because One Drive has limited space and you cannot store everything in there. Use the storage wisely!
  7. When you select the folder, there will be a set of dropdown options to choose from. Click download, then go to the download section of your PC and transfer it to your preferred section of the computer (Documents, desktop, etc. Or you can choose to leave it in the Downloads section.)